Osage County relaxes quarantine rules for mask wearers

The rate of COVID-19 infection in Osage County has increased to about two per day during the month of October, and as of today, Oct. 23, 2020, Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed that one percent of Osage County’s population has been infected by the disease since March. In its Friday report, KDHE showed Osage County has had 160 confirmed infections since the pandemic began.

While Kansas continues to be designated as a red zone by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which means 100 new cases per 100,000 people per week, Osage County has taken steps to relax its quarantine rules regarding the use of masks.

In July, the Osage County Commission chose to exempt the county from Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask order and other measures, and instead has been managing the emergency locally under guidelines of the local board of health.

Earlier this week, the Osage County Health Department issued new guidelines for the county regulating when quarantine is ordered for people in contact with someone who has been confirmed as COVID-19 infected. In a public notice, the department said people in Osage County who are determined to be in close contact of a person who has a confirmed positive test for COVID-19 may be exempted from quarantine if the positive individual and the close contact were wearing masks at the time of the exposure.

The notice said data collected in Osage County by the health department has noted that no individuals who have been quarantined due to close contact with a confirmed positive case have tested positive for COVID-19, with the exception of household contacts.

The notice outlined the effect of quarantine on people’s lives: “Quarantines greatly affect the livelihood, mental health, and well-being of our citizens. In particular, our youth and families have been adversely affected by quarantines that have forced some schools to close, parents to stay home from work, and important social and sporting events to be cancelled. Without data that supports the need for these quarantines, it is in the best interest of our citizens to review our process.

“When both parties wear a properly fitting mask that has at least two layers (as in school settings currently), data shows that the risk for a close contact to contract COVID-19 is minimal. Osage County is not implementing a mask mandate, but rather asking that when citizens are out in public, especially at any event in which there are many people (such as school, sports activities, riding public transit, or attending social events), that they wear a mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is mainly aimed at schools, where students and staff already wear masks and where quarantines have already caused significant disruption to important life activities. However, this will also benefit anyone else attending any public gathering, attending work, or other social events Osage County.”

The notice said there might still be a need to quarantine an individual due to high risk circumstances even when both parties were wearing a mask.

As of today, KDHE reports that Osage County has had 160 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March 23. OCHD reports there are currently 18 people in the county with active infections, with one of those in the hospital, and 62 people quarantined as of Thursday. Two people from Osage County have been reported as dying from the disease. KDHE reports that 2,543 negative test results have been recorded in the county.

On Sept. 30, KDHE reported Osage County had tallied 114 cases. From July through September, the county added about one new case a day. But from Oct. 1 to today’s total of 160, cases increased at a rate of two per day. Osage County’s population is 15,949.

Statewide there have been 76,230 positive cases, 975 people have died, and 3,584 people have been hospitalized due to the virus.


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